After 18 months of service in the Israeli army, Roman Levin told his commanders that he was no longer willing to participate in the oppression of the Palestinian people. ‘When I visited Ukraine, I encountered disrespect toward Jews. This is how my empathy for the Palestinian people developed.’
The Israeli army sentenced 19-year-old Roman Levin to 30 days in prison on Tuesday for refusing to continue serving due to his opposition to Israel’s occupation.
Levin, from the city of Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv, immigrated to Israel with a few members of his family from Ukraine when he was 3 years old. Around 18 months ago he enlisted in the army, believing his service would contribute to society and fulfill his duties as a citizen.
Mesarvot, a grassroots network that brings together individuals and groups who refuse to enlist in the IDF in protest of the occupation, accompanied Levin as he was taken to Prison 6.
In his refusal statement, Levin wrote:
My refusal is an act of protest against the occupation that has been going on for more than 50 years, and an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.
When I visited my family in Ukraine, I encountered disrespect toward Jews, and in Israel, too, my friends and I were treated with contempt for our different ethnicity and culture. This is how my empathy for the oppressed Palestinian people developed. There’s a civil war going on in the Ukraine, and when I visited there a few months ago I met soldiers who have no idea what they’re fighting for, and end up dead. I could relate to them, because I, too, don’t believe in Israel’s military policies, which are predominantly about maintaining the occupation. This experience led me to think about the meaning of my military service.
I refuse to keep participating in the oppression of the Palestinian people. In the [occupied] territories, more and more settlements are being built while Palestinians are subjected to policies of land confiscations and home demolitions. Since 2006, Israel has destroyed more than 2,000 homes in the occupied territories. Palestinians have limited freedom of movement, both inside their homeland and when traveling outside of it, as the Palestinian passport is ranked 189th in the world, and in the Gaza Strip this right is revoked entirely.
I served in the army as a...